Think of the Censors
Writers who have to deal with censors on a daily basis love nothing more than to make fun of those corporate bastards who ruin their fun, usually by slipping in something that they hope the censors wouldn't notice. This trope, on the other hand, is the inverse of that, where the writers allude to something that would upset the censors, but then let the characters break the fourth wall by acknowledging the censors themselves, and how the censors wouldn't like what the characters are about to do. Usually this involves pleading to the work's intended age group, its timeslot or sometimes even the parent company. Usually shows up in cartoons, sometimes as a form of Parental Bonus. The difference between this trope and Getting Crap Past the Radar in general is in implying that they could do something to upset the censors, but won't. In older cartoons this was usually done as a reference to The Hays Code, but in other media it can also reference The Comics Code and the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Occasionally this can be done without breaking the fourth wall, when the characters are in the company of someone who shouldn't be exposed to naughty language. Ironically, when this trope appears by itself, it also means that discussing the subject must be allowed, but showing it is not. Supertrope of You Wanna Get Sued? (where the characters realize that mentioning something copyrighted or protected by law will get them in trouble). Compare Too Hot for TV, Our Lawyers Advised This Trope, Narrative Profanity Filter.
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Anime and Manga
- In Yakitate!! Japan, just as one character is about to reveal his genitals to complete a pun, others tackle him, pleading that the show would be cancelled if he showed his junk on the air.
- Anime episode 200. Captain Mayuri revives his lieutenant Nemu with what appears to be "sexual healing". Uryu Ishida complains that what he did can't be shown on TV.
- When Chizuru becomes one of the Karakura Rangers, Uryu (as the commentator) notes that only one of her attacks can get past the censors.
- In the first episode of Lingerie Fighter Papillon Rose "New Season". Papillon Rose was about to do her "Pinky Vibrator" attack from the original hentai-themed OVA, but Rama stops her before she can say the full name, claiming that the censors won't allow them to do that any more.
- At one point in the Mahou Sensei Negima! manga, a panicked Konoka readies a censor image and protests that children are reading the comic when Jack Rakan begins getting a bit too perverted. Played for Laughs because the series is a hot-and-sexy PG-13 at best.
- In Dance in the Vampire Bund, Princess Mina, in a fit of pique, demanded that her personal servant/bodyguard Akira share her bed before she returns the ring he received from an Unlucky Childhood Friend. When he blushed she snapped "I meant sleep beside me otherwise this manga would be canceled"
- In the first episode of Haiyore! Nyarko-san, Mahiro interrupts Nyarko's Motor Mouth rambling and gets her attention by stabbing a fork into the table next to her hand. Her response is a panicked "What are you doing?! Are you trying to get us cancelled?!" Note that in the original light novels, Mahiro's fork-stabs produce fountains of High-Pressure Blood, while in the TV anime they only cause Cranial Eruptions.
- Used in Bait and Switch after Eleya has her one night stand with Gaarra in chapter three. (The fic originally appeared on Star Trek Online's forum and Fanfiction.Net, both of which have policies against posting NSFW content.)
- This dialogue in the Meg's Family Series:
Stewie: Revenge is my specialty. Just ask Elizabeth Smart. One day, she cut in front of me in a line at McDonald's, so of course I had to-Tilly: Don't you dare finish that! Do you want this fic deleted?
- This happens in The Ultimate Evil when Nataline first meets Valerie and they get off to a rocky start. Nat makes dumb-blonde jokes at Valerie until:
Nat: How do you get a blonde off her knees? Cu—Valerie: Ahem! I think that type of joke is a little off limits due to our current company! Don't you think?! *indicates towards Jade (about 10 years old)*Nat: *getting the hint* Oh... Right. Sorry.
Film — Animated
- The Lion King, during "Hakuna Matata" (counts as both Curse Cut Short and Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion):
Pumbaa: And I got downhearted / Every time that I...
Timon: Pumbaa! Not in front of the kids!
Pumbaa: Oh. Sorry.
- Toy Story, when Woody and Buzz are arguing over whether or not Buzz is a toy.
Woody: The word I'm searching for, I can't say, because there's preschool toys present.
Film — Live-Action
- Road to Morocco, title song:
I hear this country's where they do the dance of the seven veils
We'd tell you more, but we would have the censor on our tails
- In Inspector Gadget, the talking car has to go out of its way to remind Gadget to wear a seatbelt because "It's a Disney movie!"
- The Marx Brothers' At The Circus: Groucho needs to get some stolen money back from Peerless Pauline, who has put it into Victoria's Secret Compartment.
There must be some way of getting that money without getting in trouble with the Hays Office.
- In The Three Stooges film Gypped in the Penthouse, a beautiful woman takes Shemp's ring and hides it in her cleavage, leaving Shemp with a problem:
Shemp: There must be a way to get that ring back without getting in trouble with the censors.
- In Captain Underpants, Harold and George consider creating a crime-fighting urinal named "The Urinator", but remember that such a thing would never be allowed in a children's book.
- Dav Pilkey, the author of Captain Underpants, revealed that the character was almost a real thing, but when he posed the idea to his wife, she responded that he wouldn't be able to get away with it in a kids' book. Pilkey thought the exchange was so funny that he ended up putting it in the story.
- Artemis Fowl has the Gnomish curseword "D'arvit". When it's first used the narration points out they might as well leave it untranslated, as it'd only end up censored.
- My Name Is Earl: On one episode, Darnell explains that a Show Within a Show in the episode had to censor profanity because the FCC doesn't allow curse words until after 10PM. Joy looks at her watch, then says "Douchebags."
- The kids' show You Can't Do That On Television reveled in this.
- Just Shoot Me!, "How the Finch Stole Christmas"
- In Episode 45 of Monty Python's Flying Circus, the Bishop and Brigadier try to settle down and talk about their deep feelings for each other. They conclude that there's not much they can do about it on television, even though "they are a lot more permissive these days than they used to be."
- Played with on the Top Gear Ground Force. After Jeremy Clarkson destroyed James May's shed for the umpteenth time, May paused to ask Clarkson what time the program airs, and more specifically whether or not it's beyond the Watershed. Upon confirming that it is, he starts to scream "You're a f—" but gets cut short by a hard cut over to Richard Hammond.
- Played with on The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert interviewing Cee Lo Green regarding his profanity-laden single:
Stephen Colbert: My guest tonight has a hit song, the name of which I cannot legally say on air. So I dunno how the (bleep) he's gonna sing it.
Stephen Colbert (later): This is the family show. We can't have you dropping the F-bomb here. Could I recommend a couple other words you could say instead of (bleep)?
- Cee Lo ultimately agrees to replace "Fuck you" with the far-more positive "Fox News".
- The radio edit replaces the Fuck You with "Forget You". It could also be an example of this trope, an artist preferring to change his song himself before the real censors can leave it a mass of bleeps or blank space.
- The Late Show With Stephen Colbert makes fun of this when PewDiePie was on as a guest. Felix asks Colbert if he wants to learn some Swedish curses, and Stephen says "Sure. I can't say them back to you, but let's make the censors learn Swedish!" Most of the swears Felix provides are bleeped out, though they let "Helvete!" (literally: "Hell!") through.
- The MythBusters have run up against this more than once. For instance, when testing if it's possible to polish a turd, Adam starts the show by dutifully listing all the euphemisms for "turd" that they're not allowed to use (which, of course, were all bleeped out). In another one, they were testing if swearing helped to deal with pain; Adam made mouth guards to help the censors out by keeping people's foul mouths from needing to be blurred out - "Blurs are expensive, but bleeps are cheap!".
- Family Feud: When a question or a response on the current incarnation of drifts into questionable waters, Steve Harvey will often note to the contestants that the show's title is "Family Feud" and thus they should think about what they're saying. A borderline example given that he usually says that after the contestant has said something Harvey thinks is inappropriate. And sometimes, much to his chagrin, their answer actually is up on the board, though usually in Unusual Euphemism form.
- Wheel of Fortune: Multiple times, when a puzzle has shown profanity, Pat will point out the obvious. Examples:
- HELL-BENT FOR ELECTION.
- A partially revealed puzzle that eventually was DAVID HASSELHOFF. At one point, the H's and E's were some of the letters that had not been filled in, but the A's and S's were among those revealed. Pat jokingly reprimanded the game coordinator for choosing the puzzle.
- A partially revealed puzzle that eventually was BARBECUE SPIT. "S_IT" was showing, and the contestant called an "H." "Thankfully, no," remarked Pat before moving the game along to the next contestant.
- A bonus round puzzle was "CUSSWORDS," to which Pat jokingly stated that they were going to have to wash mouths out with soap.
- Saturday Night Live usually invokes this trope in conjunction with the Curse Cut Short (or, in some cases, "Very Risque Comment Cut Short") trope.
- In an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, one of the Scenes From a Hat was "Things that will get bleeped by the censors." Sure enough, everything the players said was bleeped out.
- In the Newsboys song "Belly of the Whale", which was written for the Veggie Tales "Jonah" movie...
Peter Furler: It might behoove me to be heaved/ Head out like a human comet-
Larry the Cucumber: Uh, guys, you might not want to rhyme with "comet"!
Peter Furler: It might behoove me to be heaved/ Head out like a human comet, hmm, I wonder what rhymes with comet?
- That was the version on the Jonah album. The version used in other media for the film is this:
- From it? Grommet? Bomb it? Nom nom nom it?
- Eric Idle, on Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album, sings "I Bet You They Won't Play This Song on the Radio".
You can't say *** on the radio
Or *** or *** or ***
You can't even say
"I'd like to *** you someday"
Unless you're a doctor with a very large ***
- In Georges Brassens's song Gare au Gorille, a couple of young women are watching a gorilla in his cage, looking at "A precise point that my mother rigorously forbade me to name here". The song ends on a similar note.
- Salt N Pepa's Let's Talk About Sex was about bringing the topic of sex into public discussion, back in the early 90's, and acknowledged that people probably didn't want to hear it.
Salt: Yo, Pep, I don't think they're gonna play this on the radio
- Crash Tag Team Racing has this as one of Neo Cortex's complaints upon being bumped by another racer: "I would've flipped him, but this game is rated E!" For futher context, the game is actually rated E10+.
- In No More Heroes, Jeane doesn't want to tell Travis about her Dark and Troubled Past, because it's awful enough to jack up the age rating on the already M-rated game even further.
Jeane: "What if the game gets delayed? You don't want this to become No More Heroes Forever, do you?"
- As a compromise, Travis agrees to fast-forward through the story so the audience wouldn't be subjected to it. For those of you who are curious enough...
- In Banjo-Tooie, Banjo stops Chief Blotazin from swearing by reminding him that "this is a family game."
- In Doom RPG, picking up the BFG displays a message that says "We'd tell you what this stood for but this is a family game."
- Combined with Non-Standard Game Over in Jump Start5th Grade. The game's storyline involves stopping a Mad Scientist from blowing up industrial plants. If you fail to disarm one of the bombs, the game's protagonist breaks the fourth wall to inform that you have to try again because bombs can't go off in an educational game.
- During Makoto's gag reel in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend, Makoto attempts to tell Noel how to imitate daddy's "abs and gun show" routine. She refuses to demonstrate herself or have the act depicted because "we're already on thin ice with the ratings board as it is..." Hello pot, meet kettle.
- In Ragna's Chronophantasma gag reel, Makoto and Bullet (both enchanted by the Spectacles of Eros Mk.II) try to vie for Ragna's attention with a sort of striptease. Noel stops it by warning that going any further might invoke the dreaded AO rating.
- Ultra Fast Pony. Pinkie Pie's song "Zorba Style" has the lines:
Pinkie: When I get some good luck
After my hoovies get stuck
My Bill will rescue me and then we will...
wait, I can't say that word.
- An episode of U.S. Acres on Garfield and Friends had the wolf disguise himself as a businessman, where he convinced everyone on the farm, except for Orson, to procrastinate their jobs. Whenever he mentioned procrastination, the characters would respond with, "You can't talk about that on a kid's show!"
- Looney Tunes, "A Tale of Two Kitties":
- On Rocko's Modern Life, "To Heck and Back":
Heffer: Wait a minute. Heck? Isn't it supposed to be-
Peaches: (covers Hef's mouth) Censors.
- Duck Dodgers features this in an episode that spoofed Samurai Jack. Samurai Duck nearly slices somebody in half, until he says, "Not a robot!" They both agree that thankfully, humans cannot be killed on a show in this age rating.
- From Rocky and Bullwinkle:
Boris: I could swear...
Natasha: Not on this program, dahlink!
- From the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Ed Overboard", where Edd and Eddy are temporarily sworn in as Urban Rangers:
Eddy: I'd swear, but Standards won't let me.
- Par for the course, even Earthworm Jim plays with this, in an episode where Psycrow gets a brief job as a cartoon writer:
Editor: You cannot say this word in a cartoon!
Psycrow: What word?
Editor: Uh... I— I can't say.
- Max from Sam & Max: Freelance Police uses a variation along the lines of "I never dreamed we could have this much fun and still be suitable for young viewers!".
- During a skit about the human body, Sam thoughtfully informs us that they're not allowed to show blood when discussing the function of the heart, since it's a children's show. Of course, he says this in front of a completely red background
- Family Guy does this in "The Road to Rhode Island":
Brian: We may pick up some college girls, and picnic on the grass.
Stewie: We'd tell you more, but then we'd have the censors on our ass.
Stewie: Looks like somebody's getting a little Oedipussy.
- Also on the Family Guy "Road To..." episode where Stewie and Brian travel to London to see Jolly Farm, there was Stewie's line about Brian during their "We're Too Different to Ever Be Pals" song: "And you get a kick out of stroking your..." Brian cuts him off with the old, "You can't say that on TV" line, but the trope is subverted (and a played straight version of the Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion trope) when Stewie tells Brian that the word he was about to say was "ego."
- It's somewhat subverted in another episode, when Chris is dating a girl who looks exactly like Lois:
Brian: Can we say that?
Stewie: Just did.
- Histeria try to dodge the censor; rather the censor would actually come out "onstage" and let viewers know that what's being mentioned isn't appropriate for kids' TV (such as "vestal virgins," the Roman vomitoriums, Thomas Crappernote , use of the phrase "War is hell," and use of "Damn the torpedoes"note ), and would sometimes change it (like when Billy the Kid told the kids on his show to go out to the shed and get his gun, Lydia came out, told him that what he was suggesting kids do would lead to copycat accidents, and then dressed him up like a girl so the network can get bigger ratings from girl viewers). The fact that the quotes and names are actual historical facts and Histeria was, for all its flaws, an educational show, probably helped to keep the real censors at bay.
- One episode of Popeye ends with a Frank Sinatra look-alike sailing away with Olive Oyl on a raft. Popeye and Bluto look on, flabbergasted, and then say "Well I'll be a —", and at that moment two real-life hands cover their mouths. They finish the sentence silently with a gigantic "CENSORED" over each of their mouths.
- In a Thanksgiving episode of Animaniacs, a pilgrim hunting a turkey orders Yakko, Wakko, and Dot to "Give (him) the bird." Yakko responds with "We'd love to, but the Fox censors won't allow us."
- One of the lines in the theme song of Tiny Toon Adventures is "We crack up all the censors!"
- One episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force started with Frylock telling Meatwad he can't say the word "Jesus Christ" on T.V. because of Standards and Practices, which is then followed by a parody video about censors. For the rest of the episode, Jesus is called "Gee Whiz" (the name of the episode) and curse words are censored with giant red "X"s and various dumb sound effects.